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Barking alerts men to danger

Charles Brooks didn't wake up when the van soared off the street and plowed into his garage. He didn't stir when the driver shouted and pounded on the front door.

Only the persistent barks of his dachshund, Brandy, finally woke Brooks at 2:40 a.m. Friday.

Good thing.

Minutes after Brooks stepped outside to investigate, the vehicle's gas tank exploded, igniting the roof of the house. Before long, the house was destroyed.

Brooks, his house guest, the driver and the dog all survived.

"I kept telling her, "Settle down, Brandy, it's just thunder,' " said Brooks, 81, who is hard of hearing. "But she wouldn't stop. She saved our lives."

The driver, 19-year-old Craig Snider, was taken to Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he remained in serious condition Friday afternoon, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

The cause of the crash is still under investigation.

The patrol says Snider was speeding early Friday through Citrus Hills in central Citrus County. He ran his van off the road, hit a utility box, careened off a tree and smashed into Brooks' house at 351 E Liberty St.

"I heard a roar, something coming fast," said David Maynard, Brooks' next-door neighbor. "He must have been going at a ferocious speed."

Maynard and his wife, Pat, got up, but had trouble dressing since the crash knocked out their electricity.

They wandered outside, half-clothed, and found Brooks in the same condition.

Brooks' friend from Pittsburgh, William Petrone, 80, was sleeping in the bedroom directly behind the garage. He stirred when the van hit the utility box, then got up after the explosion.

Smoke filled the room, and Petrone couldn't find his way.

"I was yelling, "You've got to get the hell out of there,' " Brooks said.

Petrone followed the sound of his friend's voice and made it outside.

At the same time, Snider was stumbling and disoriented on the lawn.

The first fire engine responded at 2:55 a.m., fire rescue spokesman Tom McLean said. In all, four engines, three tankers, a rehab unit and an air trailer arrived.

While firefighters were battling flames, Brooks feared for his dachshund. Brandy, his deceased wife's dog, had not evacuated the house with her owner.

When the fire calmed, he asked firefighters to look for her.

The dog was hiding under a charred bed in the master bedroom, cowering in a puddle of water.

"I couldn't believe it," Brooks said. "The firefighters came out and they were holding Brandy in a blanket, like a baby."

By Friday afternoon, she was recuperating at a friend's house after seeing the veterinarian.

"If it weren't for Brandy, I don't know what would have happened," Brooks said. "We probably wouldn't be here."